The exploitation of children in the entertainment industry is something that to this day is still a bit of a problem since the stress that acting can place on a person is bad enough when they’re an adolescent or an adult, but it can become even worse when it happens to children, who are far more protected then than they were in the past, but are still at risk sometimes. There are far too many horror stories to count when it comes to child actors turning bad or somehow ending up as alcoholics, drug abusers, convicts, or worse, dead before their potential can really take off. That brings us to the tale of Lucille Ricksen, who was born as Ingeborg Myrtle Elisabeth Ericksen, who was 14 at the time of her passing. She was the first known child to be exploited in such a way that it could be seen as one of the worst cases ever recorded. This largely-unknown young woman was being utilized for modeling and acting from the time she was a baby until the day she passed away, as she performed in around 30 movies by the time she was 14. Do the math on that one and then realize how hard she was working, and how much stress had been placed on her from an extremely young age.
There are plenty of laws in place these days to make certain that kids aren’t being worked that hard, and are being protected in various other ways since Lucille was being made to act with men that were easily twice her age in various movies as she was made to look older and was told to go along with it in order to get paid. The outrage that a lot of people would feel isn’t hard to imagine, but the unfortunate fact is that this was a different time and obviously the rules could be circumvented in a way that allowed a young girl to not only work herself to death but to be featured with men that were far too old for her and even find herself being pushed into relationships to further her career so that she could continue to support her family, who was obviously not there for her well-being. Anyone willing to put their child through this is someone that many people in this day and age believe should have been separated from their child without question. Yet, for all that, there are still those in this time period that seek to exploit child actors while taking care to act within the scriptures of the law while finding loopholes that can allow them to do as they please thanks to the fact that as much as things have changed since the early 20th century, a lot of things still haven’t changed enough.
Lucille’s end came after taking on 10 movies in a span of 7 months, which is unheard of for a lot of actors and even less likely for a child actor who has to be given a period of time to relax after finishing a role. Word has it that she took ill and was bed-ridden up until the time of her passing. Some say she’d contracted tuberculosis, others that she was ill after a botched abortion, and others that she was simply ailing from exhaustion, which was the most likely of reasons. Worse than this however is the fact that her mother had a heart attack at Lucille’s bedside and fell down dead on top of her, which only worsened her mental state as she passed on not too long after the incident. It might sound cruel and unusual, but there are likely to be people that might not cry a tear for Lucille’s mother since she’s the person that pushed her daughter into being with older men and forming the right relationships that could further her career. In a sense, her mother was pimping her out at one point without having to call it that since Lucille was trying to become a well-renowned actress. But none of it was right, and it feels that Lucille knew it was wrong but was going through it to help out her family. Today such a thing wouldn’t just be frowned upon, it would be a major issue that many people might start a march over and proceed to condemn Hollywood for since it’s not much of a secret that the industry has taken to abusing children more than once throughout the years.
It’s an accusation that a lot of people don’t want to get into and a thought that’s too abhorrent for many to even think about, but it is something that’s been done repeatedly throughout the history of Hollywood, and while measures have been taken to stop it, the fact is that the damage that’s already been done is hard to forget.